The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

XVII. He held the consulship four times; the first [408], from the
calends [the first] of July for two months: the second [409], from the
calends of January for thirty days; the third [410], until the ides [the
13th] of January; and the fourth [411], until the seventh of the same
ides [7th January]. Of these, the two last he held successively. The
third he assumed by his sole authority at Lyons; not, as some are of
opinion, from arrogance or neglect of rules; but because, at that
distance, it was impossible for him to know that his colleague had died a
little before the beginning of the new year. He twice distributed to the
people a bounty of three hundred sesterces a man, and as often gave a
splendid feast to the senate and the equestrian order, with their wives
and children. In the latter, he presented to the men forensic garments,
and to the women and children purple scarfs. To make a perpetual
addition to the public joy for ever, he added to the Saturnalia [412] one
day, which he called Juvenalis [the juvenile feast].

XVIII. He exhibited some combats of gladiators, either in the
amphitheatre of Taurus [413], or in the Septa, with which he intermingled
troops of the best pugilists from Campania and Africa. He did not always
preside in person upon those occasions, but sometimes gave a commission
to magistrates or friends to supply his place. He frequently entertained
the people with stage-plays (263) of various kinds, and in several parts
of the city, and sometimes by night, when he caused the whole city to be
lighted. He likewise gave various things to be scrambled for among the
people, and distributed to every man a basket of bread with other
victuals. Upon this occasion, he sent his own share to a Roman knight,
who was seated opposite to him, and was enjoying himself by eating
heartily. To a senator, who was doing the same, he sent an appointment
of praetor-extraordinary. He likewise exhibited a great number of
Circensian games from morning until night; intermixed with the hunting of
wild beasts from Africa, or the Trojan exhibition. Some of these games
were celebrated with peculiar circumstances; the Circus being overspread
with vermilion and chrysolite; and none drove in the chariot races who
were not of the senatorian order. For some of these he suddenly gave the
signal, when, upon his viewing from the Gelotiana [414] the preparations
in the Circus, he was asked to do so by a few persons in the neighbouring

XIX. He invented besides a new kind of spectacle, such as had never been
heard of before. For he made a bridge, of about three miles and a half
in length, from Baiae to the mole of Puteoli [415], collecting trading
vessels from all quarters, mooring them in two rows by their anchors, and
spreading earth upon them to form a viaduct, after the fashion of the
Appian Way [416]. This bridge he crossed and recrossed for two days
together; the first day mounted on a horse richly caparisoned, wearing on
his head a crown of oak leaves, armed with a battle-axe, a Spanish
buckler and a sword, and in a cloak made of cloth of gold; the day
following, in the habit of a charioteer, standing in a chariot, drawn by
two high-bred horses, having with him a young boy, Darius by name, one of
the Parthian hostages, with a cohort of the pretorian guards attending
him, and a (264) party of his friends in cars of Gaulish make [417].
Most people, I know, are of opinion, that this bridge was designed by
Caius, in imitation of Xerxes, who, to the astonishment of the world,
laid a bridge over the Hellespont, which is somewhat narrower than the
distance betwixt Baiae and Puteoli. Others, however, thought that he did
it to strike terror in Germany and Britain, which he was upon the point
of invading, by the fame of some prodigious work. But for myself, when I
was a boy, I heard my grandfather say [418], that the reason assigned by
some courtiers who were in habits of the greatest intimacy with him, was
this; when Tiberius was in some anxiety about the nomination of a
successor, and rather inclined to pitch upon his grandson, Thrasyllus the
astrologer had assured him, “That Caius would no more be emperor, than he
would ride on horseback across the gulf of Baiae.”

XX. He likewise exhibited public diversions in Sicily, Grecian games at
Syracuse, and Attic plays at Lyons in Gaul besides a contest for pre-
eminence in the Grecian and Roman eloquence; in which we are told that
such as were baffled bestowed rewards upon the best performers, and were
obliged to compose speeches in their praise: but that those who performed
the worst, were forced to blot out what they had written with a sponge or
their tongue, unless they preferred to be beaten with a rod, or plunged
over head and ears into the nearest river.

XXI. He completed the works which were left unfinished by Tiberius,
namely, the temple of Augustus, and the theatre (265) of Pompey [419].
He began, likewise, the aqueduct from the neighbourhood of Tibur [420],
and an amphitheatre near the Septa [421]; of which works, one was
completed by his successor Claudius, and the other remained as he left
it. The walls of Syracuse, which had fallen to decay by length of time,
he repaired, as he likewise did the temples of the gods. He formed plans
for rebuilding the palace of Polycrates at Samos, finishing the temple of
the Didymaean Apollo at Miletus, and building a town on a ridge of the
Alps; but, above all, for cutting through the isthmus in Achaia [422];
and even sent a centurion of the first rank to measure out the work.

XXII. Thus far we have spoken of him as a prince. What remains to be
said of him, bespeaks him rather a monster than a man. He assumed a
variety of titles, such as “Dutiful,” “The (266) Pious,” “The Child of
the Camp, the Father of the Armies,” and “The Greatest and Best Caesar.”
Upon hearing some kings, who came to the city to pay him court,
conversing together at supper, about their illustrious descent, he

Eis koiranos eto, eis basileus.
Let there be but one prince, one king.

He was strongly inclined to assume the diadem, and change the form of
government, from imperial to regal; but being told that he far exceeded
the grandeur of kings and princes, he began to arrogate to himself a
divine majesty. He ordered all the images of the gods, which were famous
either for their beauty, or the veneration paid them, among which was
that of Jupiter Olympius, to be brought from Greece, that he might take
the heads off, and put on his own. Having continued part of the Palatium
as far as the Forum, and the temple of Castor and Pollux being converted
into a kind of vestibule to his house, he often stationed himself between
the twin brothers, and so presented himself to be worshipped by all
votaries; some of whom saluted him by the name of Jupiter Latialis. He
also instituted a temple and priests, with choicest victims, in honour of
his own divinity. In his temple stood a statue of gold, the exact image
of himself, which was daily dressed in garments corresponding with those
he wore himself. The most opulent persons in the city offered themselves
as candidates for the honour of being his priests, and purchased it
successively at an immense price. The victims were flamingos, peacocks,
bustards, guinea-fowls, turkey and pheasant hens, each sacrificed on
their respective days. On nights when the moon was full, he was in the
constant habit of inviting her to his embraces and his bed. In the day-
time he talked in private to Jupiter Capitolinus; one while whispering to
him, and another turning his ear to him: sometimes he spoke aloud, and in
railing language. For he was overheard to threaten the god thus:

Hae em’ anaeir’, hae ego se; [423] Raise thou me up, or I’ll–

(267) until being at last prevailed upon by the entreaties of the god, as
he said, to take up his abode with him, he built a bridge over the temple
of the Deified Augustus, by which he joined the Palatium to the Capitol.
Afterwards, that he might be still nearer, he laid the foundations of a
new palace in the very court of the Capitol.

XXIII. He was unwilling to be thought or called the grandson of Agrippa,
because of the obscurity of his birth; and he was offended if any one,
either in prose or verse, ranked him amongst the Caesars. He said that
his mother was the fruit of an incestuous commerce, maintained by
Augustus with his daughter Julia. And not content with this vile
reflection upon the memory of Augustus, he forbad his victories at
Actium, and on the coast of Sicily, to be celebrated, as usual; affirming
that they had been most pernicious and fatal to the Roman people. He
called his grandmother Livia Augusta “Ulysses in a woman’s dress,” and
had the indecency to reflect upon her in a letter to the senate, as of
mean birth, and descended, by the mother’s side, from a grandfather who
was only one of the municipal magistrates of Fondi; whereas it is
certain, from the public records, that Aufidius Lurco held high offices
at Rome. His grandmother Antonia desiring a private conference with him,
he refused to grant it, unless Macro, the prefect of the pretorian
guards, were present. Indignities of this kind, and ill usage, were the
cause of her death; but some think he also gave her poison. Nor did he
pay the smallest respect to her memory after her death, but witnessed the
burning from his private apartment. His brother Tiberius, who had no
expectation of any violence, was suddenly dispatched by a military
tribune sent by his order for that purpose. He forced Silanus, his
father-in-law, to kill himself, by cutting his throat with a razor. The
pretext he alleged for these murders was, that the latter had not
followed him upon his putting to sea in stormy weather, but stayed behind
with the view of seizing the city, if he should perish. The other, he
said, smelt of an antidote, which he had taken to prevent his being
poisoned by him; whereas Silanus was only afraid of being sea-sick, and
the disagreeableness of a voyage; and Tiberius had merely taken a
medicine for an habitual cough, (268) which was continually growing
worse. As for his successor Claudius, he only saved him for a laughing-

XXIV. He lived in the habit of incest with all his sisters; and at
table, when much company was present, he placed each of them in turns
below him, whilst his wife reclined above him. It is believed, that he
deflowered one of them, Drusilla, before he had assumed the robe of
manhood; and was even caught in her embraces by his grandmother Antonia,
with whom they were educated together. When she was afterwards married
to Cassius Longinus, a man of consular rank, he took her from him, and
kept her constantly as if she were his lawful wife. In a fit of
sickness, he by his will appointed her heiress both of his estate and the
empire. After her death, he ordered a public mourning for her; during
which it was capital for any person to laugh, use the bath, or sup with
his parents, wife, or children. Being inconsolable under his affliction,
he went hastily, and in the night-time, from the City; going through
Campania to Syracuse, and then suddenly returned without shaving his
beard, or trimming his hair. Nor did he ever afterwards, in matters of
the greatest importance, not even in the assemblies of the people or
before the soldiers, swear any otherwise, than “By the divinity of
Drusilla.” The rest of his sisters he did not treat with so much
fondness or regard; but frequently prostituted them to his catamites. He
therefore the more readily condemned them in the case of Aemilius
Lepidus, as guilty of adultery, and privy to that conspiracy against him.
Nor did he only divulge their own hand-writing relative to the affair,
which he procured by base and lewd means, but likewise consecrated to
Mars the Avenger three swords which had been prepared to stab him, with
an inscription, setting forth the occasion of their consecration.

XXV. Whether in the marriage of his wives, in repudiating them, or
retaining them, he acted with greater infamy, it is difficult to say.
Being at the wedding of Caius Piso with Livia Orestilla, he ordered the
bride to be carried to his own house, but within a few days divorced her,
and two years after banished her; because it was thought, that upon her
divorce she returned to the embraces of her former husband. (269) Some
say, that being invited to the wedding-supper, he sent a messenger to
Piso, who sat opposite to him, in these words: “Do not be too fond with
my wife,” and that he immediately carried her off. Next day he published
a proclamation, importing, “That he had got a wife as Romulus and
Augustus had done.” [424] Lollia Paulina, who was married to a man of
consular rank in command of an army, he suddenly called from the province
where she was with her husband, upon mention being made that her
grandmother was formerly very beautiful, and married her; but he soon
afterwards parted with her, interdicting her from having ever afterwards
any commerce with man. He loved with a most passionate and constant
affection Caesonia, who was neither handsome nor young; and was besides
the mother of three daughters by another man; but a wanton of unbounded
lasciviousness. Her he would frequently exhibit to the soldiers, dressed
in a military cloak, with shield and helmet, and riding by his side. To
his friends he even showed her naked. After she had a child, he honoured
her with the title of wife; in one and the same day, declaring himself
her husband, and father of the child of which she was delivered. He
named it Julia Drusilla, and carrying it round the temples of all the
goddesses, laid it on the lap of Minerva; to whom he recommended the care
of bringing up and instructing her. He considered her as his own child
for no better reason than her savage temper, which was such even in her
infancy, that she would attack with her nails the face and eyes of the
children at play with her.

XXVI. It would be of little importance, as well as disgusting, to add to
all this an account of the manner in which he treated his relations and
friends; as Ptolemy, king Juba’s son, his cousin (for he was the grandson
of Mark Antony by his daughter Selene) [425], and especially Macro
himself, and Ennia likewise [426], by whose assistance he had obtained
the empire; all of whom, for their alliance and eminent services, he
rewarded with violent deaths. Nor was he more mild or respectful in his
behaviour towards the senate. Some who had borne the (270) highest
offices in the government, he suffered to run by his litter in their
togas for several miles together, and to attend him at supper, sometimes
at the head of his couch, sometimes at his feet, with napkins. Others of
them, after he had privately put them to death, he nevertheless continued
to send for, as if they were still alive, and after a few days pretended
that they had laid violent hands upon themselves. The consuls having
forgotten to give public notice of his birth-day, he displaced them; and
the republic was three days without any one in that high office. A
quaestor who was said to be concerned in a conspiracy against him, he
scourged severely, having first stripped off his clothes, and spread them
under the feet of the soldiers employed in the work, that they might
stand the more firm. The other orders likewise he treated with the same
insolence and violence. Being disturbed by the noise of people taking
their places at midnight in the circus, as they were to have free
admission, he drove them all away with clubs. In this tumult, above
twenty Roman knights were squeezed to death, with as many matrons, with a
great crowd besides. When stage-plays were acted, to occasion disputes
between the people and the knights, he distributed the money-tickets
sooner than usual, that the seats assigned to the knights might be all
occupied by the mob. In the spectacles of gladiators, sometimes, when
the sun was violently hot, he would order the curtains, which covered the
amphitheatre, to be drawn aside [427], and forbad any person to be let
out; withdrawing at the same time the usual apparatus for the
entertainment, and presenting wild beasts almost pined to death, the most
sorry gladiators, decrepit with age, and fit only to work the machinery,
and decent house-keepers, who were remarkable for some bodily infirmity.
Sometimes shutting up the public granaries, he would oblige the people to
starve for a while.

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